For the second time in two years, the troubled Youngstown City School District is undergoing a major transformation in an effort to not only stop the exodus of students, but to bring back those who have gone to other districts. The changes are also designed to address a projected $48 million operating budget deficit.
As in March 2011, when he unveiled a realignment of the middle schools and the restructuring of Chaney and East high schools, last week’s announcement by Superintendent Connie Hathorn was met with wide support in the community and a firm endorsement from the board of education.
The general feeling among those who are directly and indirectly involved in the urban school district is that the status quo is unsustainable and uneconomical. It is unfortunate that over the years, those in charge kept doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. It was the definition of education insanity.
Hathorn, who became superintendent in January 2011, made it clear from the outset that success would only come with major changes in the way learning takes place in the classrooms.
The re-engineering of Chaney and East, while still a work in progress, is showing positive results. Chaney, which is now a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math school and a center for Visual and Performing Arts encompasses grades six through 12. Admission is through an application process. East High School caters to students interested in business and the legal profession.
Both schools offer college prep courses.
Hathorn believes that giving students choices ensures a higher rate of academic success and makes the district attractive to students elsewhere. Choice is also the foundation of the new revitalization plan, which is meant to address the high number of empty seats in the schools, reduce the number of schools in academic emergency and academic watch and reduce costs.
Details of the plan were published by The Vindicator last week. At its core, it involves closing P. Ross Berry and Volney Rogers middle schools and the University Project Learning Center, an alternative school for second- through 12th-graders on the East Side.
When fully implemented, the plan, which was approved by the state academic distress commission and the school board, would save more than $5 million annually.
But, the Youngstown school district is deserving of financial help from the state — given that the Gov. John Kasich has long urged a reorganization of the system to ensure student success.
The federal government announced last week that it has approved $20 million-plus for Ohio to help failing public school systems.
There is none more deserving than Youngs-town, which is why the governor should let it be known that the troubled school district will be first on the list of recipients.